By AJ MAZZOLINI
PENDLETON — The Pendleton Round-Up all-around cowboy designation is shaping up to be a two-horse race — or two-cowboy rather — with half of the historic rodeo now in the books.
Trevor Brazile, the nine-time PRCA World All-Around Champion and 21-time winner of individual rodeo all-around titles this year is currently trailing Russell Cardoza. The Terrebonne cowboy is up in the money with $5,304.78 earned already to Brazile’s $4,053.43.
But Cardoza is doing everything he can to hold off Brazile’s charge with the fastest time in the team roping event on Thursday. Cardoza, a heeler, and his header partner Colby Lovell secured their animal in 7.1 seconds, sliding into the second-place spot in the second round of the event.
Behind Brazile and his heeler Patrick Smith’s 5.4.
Cardoza ranks tied for second in the aggregate after winning the Round 1 payout with a 5.4-second tie. It’s a good place to be to try and rack up some more money, he said.
“Now that I’m in the short round, I’ll have a good shot a Trevor,” Cardoza said, speaking of the friendly rivalry.
Cardoza’s team roping success Thursday was nearly run off course when the pair’s calf changed directions into the heeler’s path. With Lovell’s rope already around its horns, the calf slammed on the brakes and forced Cardoza to take a steeper downward shot with his rope.
“The calf came back and almost stepped into me,” said the sixth-ranked all-around PRCA money winner from this year. “But my horse was on it. She wasn’t going to caddy into it.”
Cardoza came into Round-Up week having earned $82,838 this season.
Tie-Down Roping: Tie-down roping, the event that Brazile has owned in Pendleton, saw only one roper strike within two seconds of the Round 2 lead on Thursday. Brazile had set the pace with a 10-second tie Wednesday, following up his 8.8 from Round 1 that was a half second behind Bradley Bynum for first place.
Only Shane Erickson edged his way into the Top 12 and a spot in the short-go — if the leaderboard stands as is with another day of roping to go.
Erickson, who doesn’t rank in the top 50 tie-down ropers in the PRCA, shaved a full second off his first time in Pendleton. The roper from Terrebonne stopped the clock in 11.9 seconds in his first go during the slack performance on Tuesday morning. His 10.8 in the second round slides him into a tie for seventh with Tyson Durfey.
But the next six riders above remained unchanged with Brazile and Ryan Jarrett leading the action.
Brazile is the aggregate leader on two heads, in at 18.8 with almost a full second of space between himself and No. 2 Houston Hutto at 19.6. Jarrett ranks third with a 20.2. Down in 11th is Cardoza, perhaps the best contender from the field to dislodge Brazile from the all-around cowboy championship. His aggregate time is 22 seconds.
Barrel Racing: Half way through the barrel racing performance on Thursday, Sallye Williams climbed the ladder to fifth place in the first round. Her time in the Top 5 was short lived, though, lasting only another 29 seconds.
Jody Sheffield bumped Williams down a notch to sixth by running a 29.02-second time as the next rider.
Sheffield said her horse, the same one that she runs in each barrel racing event across the country, might actually be better suited for the Round-Up’s massive cloverleaf formation. The horse thrives in the open space.
“I do a little bit different things to set her up for the run,” Sheffield said. “She pretty much likes it wherever we go but really loves it up here — just to be turned loose and be a horse and run.”
Sheffield finished fourth in Pendleton last year and won the barrel races the year before, all on the same horse.
The key to barrel racing, Sheffield said, is usually making strong turns at the barrels. In Pendleton, the barrel transitions are still important, but not as do-or-die.
“You can have more fault in your turns because it’s such a long run in between them that it really becomes much more of a horse race than normal,” she said.
And though Sheffield is in fifth place, only three tenths of a second separate the Ogden, Utah, cowgirl from third. Lee Ann Rust ran a 29-second flat time and Marvel Murphy’s 28.99 stands in the bronze-medal position still.
Kim Schulze set the pace with a 28.77 during Wednesday’s performance.
Steer Roping: For this year’s Pendleton Round-Up, local roper Tom Sorey called on the services of a steer roping veteran to help him compete: his old horse Scratch.
The 20-year old gelding has been running with Sorey’s daughter in recent years in her rodeos. It’s been two years since the pair came together in competition.
“He’s been kind of retired doing high school rodeos but I just needed him this time and we did a pretty good job,” he said.
The connection between rider and horse is so important in steer roping, Sorey said. After the cowboy ropes the steer and directs the horse off to the side to whip the steer to the ground, the horse must keep the line tight to avoid having the other animal regain its footing.
Of course, if the horse keeps running too quickly, the rider can’t hop off and tie the animals legs.
“It’s a never ending challenge,” Sorey said. “Horses are very bright and fun to work with. They read off of you.”
Sorey won’t make the short-go after failing to post a time in the first round, but currently stands to make at least a little money with a 15.2 in the second round. He’s in fifth place with one day left of riding.
Vin Fisher, Jr. of Andrews, Texas, leads the overall with 30.2 seconds on two heads. He was third in the first round with a 13.2.
Brett Hale continues to lead the second round after finishing his tie in 13.4 seconds on Wednesday.
Steer wrestling: Before Riley York was set to chase down his steer in the steer wrestling event during Thursday’s Pendleton Round-Up, four straight cowboys had missed their tackle and takedown. It wasn’t that the animals were overpowering their smaller assailants. They were just refusing to run, letting the cowboys glide right by with arms outstretched.
York said the steers weren’t likely outsmarting the cowboys. More than likely they were just getting spooked.
“Today they were kind of hitting that shadow and slowing down right out of the barriers,” York said, describing the dark arc cast on the arena floor just along the grass infield.
But the Loyalton, Calif., wrestler’s steer ran straight through the darkness and he pulled it down for a 5.5-second time, the fastest of the performance.
York’s time put him in a tie for fourth place in the second round and into fourth in the aggregate. York dropped his first animal in 6.3 seconds earlier this week.
That means the cowboy has a good shot at making it to the short-go on Saturday in his first time to Pendleton. The success, coupled with the Round-Up atmosphere, has York raving about his experience thus far.
“Love it, just love,” he said. “It’s probably one of my favorite rodeos. It’s something you never really get to see, going on to that grass, and just the whole experience. It’s just something different.”
Nick Guy leads the aggregate with a 10.8-second total after running a 5.3-second time in the second round. Chance Gartner has the top Round 2 time with a 5.1, but four steer wrestlers were quicker in the opening round.
Contact AJ Mazzolini at firstname.lastname@example.org or 541-966-0839.